Along with the types of media you can create, you need a way to present that media to your learners.
The various ways to present information to your learners include:
- Presentations (PowerPoint or Keynote)
- Web Sites
- Web-Based Presentation Apps
Most of these styles should be familiar to you.
WHICH PRESENTATION STYLE IS ELEARNING?
Let’s get this one off the table immediately. eLearning is a method of delivering learning content that involves delivering various media in some sort of online format. Therefore, ALL of these delivery styles could be a part of eLearning.
This is the main way most businesses communicate. We have mountains of Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. This also includes PDF documents, books, guides, etc.
This is standard and almost everyone is familiar with this this presentation type. You can include text, charts and data, along with images in most document formats. These are easy to save on your learners’ hard drive, network, intranet, or mobile device. They can usually send and receive documents via email.
They are not usually a good medium for audio or video content, unless you have the capability to create interactive PDF’s, which is not a common capability yet – but this may change in the next few years.
The downfall of this presentation mode is that it is such a common presentation method that most documents go unread and the information is lost somewhere on a company server…never to be seen again. Therefore, this is certainly not the best way to deliver content you wish for them to remember. It is, however, a good medium for content you wish for the learner to need to reference at a later date (like a job aid or workflow diagram).
Don’t expect a high level of engagement with this presentation style.
We also know this as PowerPoint or Keynote.
This is a slide-based presentation style. Typically the content is linear – one slide after the next. Many times, this type of delivery method accompanies a live presentation or webinar. Many rapid eLearning software tools (Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, iSpring, etc.) use presentations as their starting input for self-paced learning products.
You also see people share presentations and view them on their own, without a presenter.
In a presentation, you can include various media types, including video and audio. You can also animate content within a slide. This allows you to create a video-like experience without the use of actual video.
This is also a familiar communication platform for most people in the corporate environment, and they can easily share these pieces of communication through email.
Presentations also make a great tool for storyboarding your content you plan to deliver in a media, such as video.
“Death by PowerPoint” is an absolutely real concern with this presentation style. It is very easy to create a presentation with lots of bulleted text. It takes a level of skill to be able to effectively create presentations that are engaging and evoke emotion in your viewers. Don’t expect presentations to be effective, by themselves, on a mobile device.
This is probably one of the more flexible presentation style. When most people think of eLearning, essentially, this is the presentation style they are thinking of – a collection of HTML pages that deliver content through a web browser.
Because they use a web browser, it is very easy to share a web site by simply offering a URL to your learners.
Web sites can handle most any kind of media you decide to use in your content. If the site is on an external-facing (not an intranet) web server, it can be available 24 hours a day to a global audience. If you choose to incorporate social tools, like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, you have the ability to create a collaborative environment for your learners.
Assuming your site is built in a modern fashion, it should be viewable on laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices.
The big negative you need to be aware of regarding web sites is that they require a connection to the internet to work. If you have never been involved with building an eLearning course or a web site, the process can be daunting and potentially expensive, depending on the requirements of the content. You not only have to create it, but you also need to manage the product after creation.
This presentation style offers you the benefit of a live presentation, but it is delivered over the Web. This extends the live audience to include anyone with a connection to the Internet. The most common format for a webinar is a presenter delivering content using a presentation style. Typically, the visual portion of a webinar occurs online and the audio portion is delivered through a conference call over the phone. Technology allows for a feature called Voice-Over IP (VOIP) that allows attendees to hear the audio through their speakers on their computer. In this situation, for learners to interact verbally with the presenter, they need a microphone on their end.
Some common Webinar platforms include WebEx, LiveMeeting, and Google Hangouts.
Webinars can be collaborative because they typically incorporate features such as chat, whiteboards, and polling to allow feedback to the presenter. Many webinar tools allow for sharing of various types of media, but depending on if you are using a phone or VOIP, there may be challenges with audio from videos and such.
This is a very good presentation style for delivering software demonstrations, because the presenter can share their computer’s screen with the audience so they can easily follow along.
Another benefit of the webinar style is that you can record a webinar and share it repeatedly after the fact.
The challenge with webinars is that they can be costly due to the service and the cost of conference calling. Because it takes a level of skill to seamlessly operate the live webinar tools, you probably want to involve multiple people on the delivery side for larger versions of this presentation style. This allows the presenter to focus on the information and the “producer” to focus on the webinar tool and act as support for your attendees.
Another problem with this presentation style is that currently, it is focused as a laptop delivery style. You can participate in a webinar on a tablet or mobile device, but it is not an optimal experience.
Lastly, to be involved with a webinar, all parties need a reasonably good internet connection and either a phone or a microphone for the audio portion of the style.
This one is unique – it is a media type and a presentation style. Video can have audio, video, photos, and graphics. The key here is movement of the visuals.
As a presentation style, there is probably not a more compelling style. YouTube is proof of this. It has proven to increase retention and engagement. Videos are also capable of being extremely emotional and remarkable.
However, video files get very large very quickly. This makes them hard (if not impossible) to share via email. Without closed captioning or text on the screen, video is a poor presentation style for the hearing impaired. Lastly, not all devices and platforms are created equally – it may be hard to ensure that your video presentations play correctly in common browsers and platforms. This includes needing a method to deliver this presentation type to your audience, which can be a challenge if you need to deliver it to people outside your organization for viewing.
WEB-BASED PRESENTATION APPS
This style is essentially a slide-oriented presentation similar to PowerPoint, but it is web-based and allows for features you may not find in traditional presentation tools. Typically these tools have a free version that is limited in some way – typically in how you publish and distribute these presentations. The free version may also include a watermark you can remove when you purchase a license for the tool.
Speaking of licenses, you typically purchase a monthly subscription for these tools and your source files typically get stored in a cloud environment.
You can use these presentations in conjunction with other presentation styles, such as a webinar or video. You can also expect that because they are web-based, they will work successfully on most mobile devices.
These tools allow you to present your content in a new and novel manner, since they look and feel different than traditional presentations. The biggest negative to a tool, such as Prezi, is that this novelty can become overused and generate a feeling of motion sickness in your viewers. This means you will need to take some time to learn how to create and deliver correctly within this presentation style.
Lastly, if you plan to use these tools, because the development portion of the tool is web-based, you typically need an internet connection to use them.
WHICH IS BEST?
Much like with media types, there is no right answer for this question. Which media you use will determine the type of presentation style you choose.
For example, if your learners don’t have reliable internet connections or security issues, you probably don’t want to create webinars or videos delivered via a web site. If you just need to create a job aid or reference of some sort, a document or slide-based presentation may be your best choice.
WHAT PRESENTATION STYLE DO YOU USE?
Do you have a favored style? Do you find that you mix your styles choices? What is your process for determining which to use?